nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, told VICE News that companies have spent $100 billion worldwide trying to commercialize breeder reactors without success.

“So now you’re telling me that this combination of reactors has $1.3 billion scattered over more than a dozen technologies?” he said. “Bill Gates’ investment … is hopeless.”

Tech Titans Like Bill Gates Are Gambling on Nuclear Power — But It Looks to Be a Losing Bet, VICE News, By Laura Dattaro July 4, 2015 Nearly 50 American and Canadian tech companies, including heavy hitters like Bill Gates, have invested over a billion dollars in next-generation nuclear technologies in the last 10 years, according to the think tank Third Way.

Despite declining public trust in nukes, especially since the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in Japan in March 2011, proponents argue that nuclear is key — some say the key — to providing reliable energy while at the same time helping to rid the world of fossil fuels.

“We were compelled by a mission to get involved in a very pressing energy challenge …. Marcia Burkey, chief financial officer of TerraPower, told VICE News. Bellingham, Washington-based TerraPower was founded by Bill Gates and is developing new nuclear reactor technologies.

But critics of nuclear power say this rosy picture does not match the realities of the industry, and that the technologies are too far from being scaled up commercially to meet the urgency of lowering emissions. What’s more, they say, the money behind the current push for more advanced reactors is paltry compared to the costs associated with developing, licensing, and constructing even a single nuclear plant.

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“You can’t really in good faith put forward a technology that we don’t know how to do, and have no real prospect of knowing how to do in the next couple of decades. The solution needs to be underway already or to be capable of beginning tomorrow,” Peter Bradford, a professor at Vermont Law School and former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), told VICE News. “That’s really not true of any of those designs mentioned in the [Third Way] report.” Continue reading

July 4, 2015 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Washington State Senate passes Bill on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – calls them “clean”

SMRs-mirageSmall modular reactor bill passes state Senate BY ANNETTE CARY Tri-City HeraldJune 30, 2015  A bill to support the manufacturing of small modular reactors in Washington state passed the state Senate 31-12 on Tuesday as the Legislature wrapped up its work.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, however, the House had yet to consider it…………….

There is interest in the Tri-Cities for positioning the community as a center for assembling or manufacturing the small nuclear plants to be shipped around the world, including to Asia. The reactors are proposed to be manufactured in modules and then shipped to where they will be used, with additional modules added as demand for electricity production increases…….

Added to the bill is a requirement that the state Department of Commerce and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction prepare a joint report to the Legislature by Dec. 1 with recommendations for a clean-energy education program.

nuclear-teacher

The program would be required to include grants both for clean-energy ambassadors and for professional development for teachers.

The clean-energy ambassadors would visit classrooms to introduce students to clean energy science and technology. They could cover solar and wind power, small modular reactors and opportunities for nuclear waste cleanup technology careers…….

Certified science teachers could receive grants to help them pursue professional development opportunities in clean-energy science and broaden their exposure to the field.

“One way to ensure that young people understand nuclear energy is to introduce them to our many great scientists, engineers and others who work in the nuclear field,” Brown said. “It’s also one of the best ways to guarantee that the next-generation of Washington job-seekers is prepared for opportunities in emerging nuclear and other clean-energy fields.”…….http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2015/06/30/3632808_small-modular-reactor-bill-passes.html?rh=1

 

July 4, 2015 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | 1 Comment

Nuclear industry keen to save US government’s Export-Import Bank

Buy-US-nukesWhy the US nuclear industry is eager to save this obscure, government-run bank The US nuclear industry has looked abroad for business as demand in the US has fallen. But without the Export-Import Bank’s backing, some say it would be harder for US companies to seal nuclear deals abroad.
Christian Science Monitor, By Jared Gilmour, Staff writer JULY 2, 2015 WASHINGTON — Tucked away in an unassuming building two blocks from the White House is a government-run bank. It helps US companies sell products abroad,……..
But this year, Congress is poised to shut its doors. The Export-Import Bank of the United States has become target No. 1 for Republican lawmakers who want to shrink the federal government and combat what they characterize as “crony capitalism.” The bank’s charter expired Wednesday – meaning it’s unable to make new loans, but will continue servicing outstanding loans – and Congress won’t consider reauthorizing it for another couple weeks.

Until recently, the bank was relatively low-profile……the Export-Import Bank’s loans and loan guarantees are critical for another domestic industry that has fallen on hard times: US nuclear power. If the bank’s charter isn’t reauthorized, the industry and a host of other business interests say the effects could be devastating for US companies’ overseas prospects……..

Nuclear looks abroad For years, the US nuclear industry has struggled domestically. Cheap natural gas and coal have largely crowded the low-carbon power source out of the market. The recession also put a damper on demand for new US power generation. Safety concerns have made matters worse for US nuclear, and those worries flared up anew after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy/2015/0702/Why-the-US-nuclear-industry-is-eager-to-save-this-obscure-government-run-bank

July 4, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

NASA cancelling solar space missions, favouring plutonium fuelled space flights

Debate over future of nuclear power systems in space, Enformable, Karl Grossman 29 Jun 2015NASA has released a study claiming there is a need for continued use of plutonium-energized power systems for future space flights. It also says the use of actual nuclear reactors in space “has promise” but “currently” there is no need for them.

The space plutonium systems—called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGS)—use the heat from the decay of plutonium to generate electricity in contrast to nuclear reactors, usually using uranium, in which fission or atom-splitting takes place.

spacecradt-plutonium-

The “Nuclear Power Assessment Study” describes itself as being done as a “collaboration” involving “NASA centers,” among them Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “the Department of Energy and its laboratories including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories,” and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The study, released this month, comes as major breakthroughs have been happening in the use of solar and other benign sources of power in space. The situation parallels that on Earth as solar and wind power and other clean, safe technologies compete with nuclear, oil, coal and other problematic energy sources and the interests behind them. Examples of the use of benign power in space include the successful flight in May of a solar-powered spacecraft named LightSail in a mission funded by members of the Planetary Society. Astronomer Carl Sagan, a founder of the society, was among those who have  postulating having a spacecraft with a sail propelled through the vacuum of space by the pressure of photons emitted by the sun. LightSail demonstrates his vision.

Yet, meanwhile, NASA cancelled its own solar sail mission scheduled for this year. Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | technology, USA | 1 Comment

Radiation legacy of atomic bomb research

LAST SECRET OF THE ATOM BOMB, Who What Why, 30 June 15  In August 2005, the New York Police Department, with the Department of Energy, conducted an anti-terrorism radiation flyover survey. The survey was intended to provide a baseline of radiological activity, in order to catch a suspicious construction of a dirty bomb.

They didn’t find a dirty bomb—but there was plenty of radiological activity. Surveyors found 80 radioactive locations in the city—one of them being Great Kills Park in Staten Island, one of the city’s five boroughs. The Park is a popular place near a suburban enclave inhabited by cops, firefighters and other unsuspecting residents. The Park, more than 500 acres of woods surrounding softball and soccer fields and a marina, was constructed from garbage dumped in the bay between 1944 and 1946. Unregulated and illegal dumping has a long history in New York City.

Children Are Especially Vulnerable Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | environment, USA | Leave a comment

New WikiLeaks Documents Reveal NSA Spied On Top French Companies

  by  | Jun 30, 2015  “……in addition to eavesdropping French Economy Ministers François Baroin and Pierre Moscovici between 2004 and 2012, the NSA gathered as much data as possible on big French companies. In particular, the agency wanted to know more about the companies that signed expensive export contracts for industrial goods, such as nuclear power plants, planes, high speed trains, etc……..

The second document also states that the NSA could share this information with its closest allies — the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It’s unclear whether the NSA is still actively spying on French companies. ……http://wearechange.org/new-wikileaks-documents-reveal-nsa-spied-on-top-french-companies/

July 1, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Radioactive Polonium from Fukushima has contaminated Southeast USA

text ionisingNASA Experts: Southeast US hit by “anomalously high” levels of polonium from Fukushima — Never seen before, except during volcanic events — Fallout also detected in Mississippi river — Polonium releases kept secret in past nuclear disasters; Death estimates would skyrocket if included http://enenews.com/nasa-experts-anomalously-high-levels-polonium-found-southeastern-after-fukushima-explosions-never-recorded-before-except-during-volcanic-events-fallout-detected-mississippi-river-polonium-rel?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29


Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, W. Yang and L. Guo, NASA Stennis Space Center and Univ. of Southern Mississippi Dept. of Marine Science, 2012 (emphasis added): Depositional fluxes and residence time of atmospheric radioiodine (131I) from the Fukushima accident

  • The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant explosions… emitted vast quantities of radioactive materials into the environment… radioiodine (131I)… 134Cs and 137Cs are of special concern to people because they could trigger dangerous health effects
  • However, data on time series depositional fluxes are still lacking, preventing… prediction of the scope of dispersion especially in North America
  • Following the Fukushima accident, a high level of 131I was first detected on March 23 in a dry deposition sample at [NASA’s space center]
  • After this initial fallout, the 131I depositional flux increased up to ten- to twenty-foldduring the following two weeks, varying from 218 mBq/m^2/day to 463 Bq/m^2/day
  • Concurrent high rainfall and high 131I fluxes were observed at the SSC site… from 97 to 337 mBq/L with an average of 217 mBq/L
  • In addition to precipitation samples, 131I was also detectable in surface waters from the Pearl River in Mississippi, with an activity of 6.7 mBq/L
  • Interestingly, the 210Po/210Pb ratios of the fallout samples during the peak 131I fallout period were anomalously high… Before and after the Fukushima accident, the environmental 210Po/210Pb ratio in precipitation samples varied from 0.02 to 0.09 with anaverage of 0.06 at the SSC in southern Mississippi… However, the 210Po/210Pb ratioduring the Fukushima fallout was up to 1.5 on March 23…
  • To date, excess 210Po in the atmosphere was only reported for high temperature activities such as volcanic eruptions or degassing… Therefore, the anomalously high 210Po/210Pb ratios observed in the southern US were mostly derived from theFukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant explosions which could have resulted in the fractionation of environmental 210Po and 210Pb and thus the preferential release of volatile 210Po into the atmosphere. Indeed, the anomalous 210Po/210Pb ratios were accompanied by the peak fallout of 131I… indicating that the Fukushima nuclear plant explosions mainly contributed to the anomaly in the 210Po/210Pb ratio…
  • it seemed that regions reachable by 131I transport within two weeks from Fukushima would receive much more fallout

New Scientist, Mar 1983: 25 years since the nuclear accident at Windscale… Attention has centred [on] radioactive iodine… the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) said the iodine-131 may have killed 13… However, the damage to health may have been much more severe… Indeed, it could represent the worst environmental disaster that Western Europe has known this century… re-examination of the data… reveals that one crucial isotope released in the fire has been ignored… there was one isotope released in the accident that is highly mobile [with] a high take-up by the human body… this was only revealed this week by the NRPB after New Scientist’s inquiries… It is polonium… polonium could give… a total dose to the UK of 5 million man-rems… the death figures may have to be revised significantly upwards… The figures suggest that some 1200 excess cases of leukaemia may have been  caused in Britain by the Windscale accident. Since leukaemia deaths account for some 15 per cent of cancers attributable to nuclear accidents, the total toll of cancer deaths suggested is 8000… Clearly further investigations into the whole of the Windscale accident must be urgently pursued. The British are in effect now the nuclear laboratory of the world.

Woods Hole’s Ken Buesseler and others have cited polonium-210 levels in seafood tested for Fukushima radionuclides, for example: “Doses from eating fish are very low off US, and in fact 500 times greater from a natural radionuclide, polonium-210, but no one worries about 210Po.”

June 28, 2015 Posted by | environment, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Depleted uranium especially hazardous – gradually becomes more radioactive – a problem for Utah

depleted-uraniumFederal regulators hear Utah testimony on depleted uranium By , Deseret News, June 25 2015 “…………The NRC is proposing to adopt a rule that for the first time specifically addresses the disposal of the material, which is a waste stream generated from the enrichment process of uranium in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Depleted uranium poses unique disposal challenges because it does not hit its peak radioactivity until 2.1 million years, and actually grows more radioactive over time. In its disposal stage, however, depleted uranium contains radioactivity that falls under the lowest level classified by the federal government — that of class A — and is legally within limits on what can be buried in Utah at EnergySolutions’ Clive facility.

Matt Pacenza, executive director of the radioactive waste watchdog organization called HEAL Utah, believes that the NRC is making a huge mistake by classifying depleted uranium as class A.

“Right now, a regulatory loophole could allow waste that does not reach a peak hazard for 2.1 million years to be treated just like waste which loses 90 percent of its hazard in less than 200,” his presentation asserted.

Pacenza, who spoke at the briefing Thursday, said the safety of the public and the environment cannot be assured given the complex nature of depleted uranium and its long-lived radioactivity.

HEAL Utah has lobbied hard against any depleted uranium being disposed of at EnergySolutions’ commercial facility in Tooele County ever since the Salt Lake-based company inked a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 to begin accepting stockpiles of the waste — with the initial shipments reaching 10,500 tons.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert intervened, successfully getting some of those shipments turned around after he launched objections with the federal agency over the uncertainties associated with the material’s disposal.

State regulators then convened multiple hearings and crafted their own rules governing the disposal of any significant amounts of depleted uranium, including the requirement that EnergySolutions develop a site-specific performance assessment designed to specifically contemplate depleted uranium’s unique character……….

The NRC’s proposed rule on depleted uranium would affect commercial facilities in Utah and Texas, as well as Washington and South Carolina.

Mike Garner, executive director of the Northwest Interstate Compact — a regional alliance with oversight of low-level radioactive waste management — argued before the commission that the proposed rule should not be hoisted on states that aren’t planning to take depleted uranium, a concern echoed by the Nuclear Energy Institute that argued the proposal would be unnecessarily costly and burdensome.

Pacenza, too, added that the proposal is undergoing significant modifications that show how much industry — particularly EnergySolutions — is influencing the potential regulation of depleted uranium……

Comments on the rule can be submitted atwww.regulations.gov

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865631459/Federal-regulators-hear-Utah-testimony-on-depleted-uranium.html?pg=all

June 27, 2015 Posted by | depleted uranium, Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Bill Gates and his nuclear power company – no friend to renewable energy

Gates: Renewable energy can’t do the job. Gov should switch green subsidies into R&D, The Register , 26 Jun 2015 , Lewis Page

Gates'-travelling-Wave-Nucl

‘Only way to a positive scenario is innovation’ ……….In Bill Gates’ view, the answer is for governments to divert the massive sums of money which are currently funnelled to renewables owners to R&D instead. This would offer a chance of developing low-carbon technologies which actually can keep the lights on in the real world……

Gates is already well known as a proponent of improved nuclear power tech, and it seems he still is. He mentioned the travelling-wave reactors under development by his firm TerraPower, which are intended to run on depleted uranium stockpiled after use in conventional reactors.

June 27, 2015 Posted by | ENERGY, spinbuster, USA | 1 Comment

Plan to spend $1 Trillion on modernising USA’s nuclear weapons

missile-moneyShould the US Spend 1 Trillion on Nuclear Weapons? http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/should-the-us-spend-1-trillion-on-nuclear-weapons/ Given the rapid modernization of Chinese and Russian nuclear stockpiles, some argue the US might want to.By Franz-Stefan Gady  June 27, 2015  The United States will have to spend $18 billion a year for 15 years starting in 2021 to keep its nuclear weapons operational, Kris Osborne over atmilitary.com reports.

His assessment is based on the testimony of U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in front of the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. The subject of the hearing was nuclear deterrence.

“We’ve developed a plan to transition our aging system. Carrying out this plan will be an expensive proposition. It is projected to cost DoD an average of $18 billion a year from 2021 through 2035,” Work noted.

The Pentagon is in the middle of initiating the modernization of its nuclear triad (land-based missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and long-range bombers).

Among other DoD programs to upgrade nuclear weapons complexes, the Navy is trying to work out a deal with Congress over its $80 billion Ohio Replacement Program (12 new ballistic missile submarines to enter servicein the 2030).

The Air Force is speeding up the development of its Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) to enter service in 2025 in addition to initiating a new mobile land-based intercontinental ballistic missile program and upgrading 480 B61-12 bombs (to be carried by the F-35 A).

Total cost of modernizing the United States’ nuclear triad over 30 years could be as high as 1 $ trillion, with $ 348 billion spend over the next ten years, according to a proposed modernization plan of the Obama White House. Continue reading

June 27, 2015 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Many incidents and near misses in USA’s nuclear reactors

safety-symbol1Flag-USAThe Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 16 Subtitle: Near Misses on Meltdowns Occur Every 3 Weeks Roger E. Sowell, Marina del Rey, California 25 June 15 

This is the second of approximately one dozen articles on nuclear safety, these will (or do) include (1) the relationship between plant operators and the regulatory commission, NRC, and show that safety regulations are routinely relaxed to allow the plants to continue operating without spending the funds to bring them into compliance.  (2) Also, the many, many near-misses each year in nuclear power plants will be discussed.   (3) The safety issues with short term, and long-term, storage of spent fuel will be a topic. (4)  Safety aspects of spent fuel reprocessing will be discussed.  (5) The health effects on people and other living things will be discussed.  The three major nuclear disasters (to date) will be discussed, (6)  Chernobyl, (7) Three Mile Island, and (8)  Fukushima.   (9) The near-disaster at San Onofre will be discussed, and (10) the looming disaster at St. Lucie.  (11)  The inherent unsafe characteristics of nuclear power plants required government shielding from liability, or subsidy, for the costs of a nuclear accident via the Price-Anderson Act.  (12) Finally, the serious public impacts of evacuation and relocation after a major incident, or “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” in the language used by the Price-Anderson Act, will be the topic of an article.   Previous articles showing that nuclear power is not economic are linked at the end of this article.

In the four year period 2010-2013, inclusive, the US nuclear reactors had 70 near-misses.  These occurred in 48 of the 103 reactors.  Some, therefore, had multiple near-misses in the same year.  One plant, Columbia, had 3 near-misses in the same year.  Wolf Creek, and Ft. Calhoun each had one near-miss in three of the four years.  On average, that is 17 near-misses per year, or roughly 17 percent of the reactor fleet.  Put another way, every 3 weeks, another near-miss occurs.  The frequency of near-misses is expected to increase over time, as the aging reactors have more equipment degrade and fail, and new systems are installed that are unfamiliar to the operators.

What is common in these incidents are old and degraded equipment that fails due to improper inspection, replacement equipment that either does not work as expected, or operators are improperly trained, and in one notable case, improperly trained workers left critical bolts improperly tightened on the reactor head.

The most serious incident, in my view, occurred at the Byron Station, Unit 2, in January, 2012, in Illinois.  A complete loss of cooling water at Unit 2 was temporarily replaced with water from Unit 1. Had this been a single-reactor plant, with no operating reactor close at hand, the loss of cooling could have resulted in a partial or full core meltdown, exactly what happened at Fukushima, Japan.  This is completely unacceptable.

Some, the nuclear proponents, will argue that the safety systems are adequate since no meltdowns occurred.  However, the sheer number of serious incidents shows that eventually, another catastrophe will occur.  The US has been lucky, but that luck is likely running out as the plants grow older and more mishaps occur.

Information in these incidents are taken from Union of Concerned Scientists’ series of annual reports, 2010 – 2013, inclusive.  The commentary is my own.  Links to the four (now five) reports are:

2010 see link
2011 see link
2012  see link
2013  see link
2014  see link    (link added 5/10/2015)

Incidents in 2013 (Fourteen incidents)…………http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part-16.html

June 26, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

$1.8B in tax-payer loans for USA nuclear plant – as its costs soar

text-my-money-2Flag-USAEnergy Department guarantees $1.8B in loans for GA nuclear plant, The Hill,  By Devin Henry – 06/24/15 The Department of Energy (DOE) will guarantee $1.8 billion in loans for the operators of two new nuclear reactors under construction at a power plant in Georgia, the department announced on Wednesday.

The government had previously provided $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant project, the country’s first new nuclear facility to be licensed and begin construction in more than 30 years. Wednesday’s step, officials said, will allow the project to be fully-financed………….

Construction at the Vogtle plant has been plagued by delays, and the Associated Press reportedWednesday that cost overruns have threatened the $2.7 billion in savings project executives have said they would secure since state regulators approved construction in 2009. Operators expect to spend at least $7.5 billion on the project. …http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/245975-energy-department-guarantees-18b-in-loans-for-ga-nuclear-plant

June 26, 2015 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Tax-payer backed loan guarantees for Vogtle nuclear reactors – still not enough to cover budget

nukes-hungryFeds Finalize $8.3 Billion in Taxpayer-Backed Loan Guarantees for Over Budget, Significantly Delayed Vogtle Nuclear Reactors as Alleged “Benefits” to Georgia Power’s Customers Have Eroded, Experts Say http://www.cleanenergy.org/2015/06/24/feds-finalize-8-3-billion-in-taxpayer-backed-loan-guarantees-for-over-budget-significantly-delayed-vogtle-nuclear-reactors-as-alleged-benefits-to-georgia-powers-customers/

June 24, 2015

Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, 865.235.1448Jennifer@cleanenergy.org

Georgia Public Service Commissioners hear concerns from public on troubled project as Department of Energy issues remaining $1.8 billion to MEAG

Atlanta, Ga. (June 24, 2015) ///PRESS RELEASE/// On the heels of Tuesday’s all-day public hearing on the 12th semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) report (Docket 29849) at the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), which underscored more schedule delays and at least $1.4 billion in cost increases just for Georgia Power’s share of the two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro along the Savannah River, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued the remaining $1.8 billion in federal loan guarantees to MEAG, a utility partner in the project. Despite testimony from the PSC Public Interest Advocacy (PIA) staff expert witnesses that identified at least an additional 3-month delay, constituting a 3 1/2 year overall project delay, and stressed that significant obstacles remain that could further derail the schedule, the DOE finalized the remaining portion of the $8.3 billion loan guarantee.

Since the controversial loan guarantee offers were made over five years ago, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has questioned the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers if the more-than $15 billion nuclear project should default — a reality that plays a large role in the nuclear industry’s history. The loan guarantee terms, including the credit subsidy fees that represent the “price tag” a utility must pay to the federal government for the loan guarantee, were never made readily available to the public. The shocking information that the credit subsidy fee for utility giant Southern Company (subsidiary Georgia Power) and its utility partner, Oglethorpe Power, was nothing, $0, was only disclosed two months after the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized terms of $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees despite the fact that taxpayers are on the hook should the project default. Now DOE has issued the third partner in the project, MEAG, the remaining $1.8 billion loan guarantee, without making the credit subsidy fee and loan documents public.

“The loan guarantee process has been shrouded in secrecy from Day One and the Vogtle project is a total mess,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with SACE. “We’re immensely frustrated that with all of this information on the problems plaguing this nuclear expansion project that the Department of Energy is still throwing taxpayer money after it.”

Not only are U.S. taxpayers shouldering risks from this project, but over $1.1 billion has already been collected from Georgia Power customers due to state legislation passed in 2009, the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act or Georgia’s “nuclear tax,” which allows Georgia Power to charge customers in advance for financing costs associated with the Vogtle project. This is itemized on customers’ bills under the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery rider. Expert testimony determined that the average household using 1000 kilowatt hours per month would pay an additional $319 during the delay period of April 2016 through June 2020 or $6.26 per month for additional financing costs and replacement fuel costs.

“During the hearing a shocking $30 billion price tag was revealed for Georgia Power customers over the course of the projected 60-year operating period for the two new Vogtle reactors. We learned that the $5 billion in benefits touted when the reactors were first approved during the certification process have completely evaporated. And the cost of $2 million per day of delay is actually closer to $3 million,” said Barczak. “What more information do the Georgia Public Service Commissioners and state lawmakers need to identify and implement measures to protect consumers from further hardship? The anti-consumer state legislation that allows Georgia Power to charge customers in advance for the project’s massive financing costs, which represent the largest share of the current cost overruns, was a bad experiment that must be corrected and prevented in the future.”

Originally Vogtle reactor Unit 3 was scheduled to come online April 1, 2016 and Unit 4 one year later but expert witnesses for the PSC have identified additional delays, now 42-months, as serious construction challenges remain. The current certified cost for Georgia Power’s share of the project is approximately $6.113 billion. The Company recently increased their cost estimate by 23%, to approximately $7.518 billion. At yesterday’s hearing experts provided even higher estimates: the current projected total cost for Georgia Power’s share, including litigation outcomes, has increased significantly since certification. Expert testimony provided a range from $7.884 billion to $8.578 billion.

“The Construction Monitor stated that original schedule projections had fuel loaded by now. But the reality is that less than 25% of the Vogtle project’s construction has been completed. The project is so delayed that financial benefits, especially the Production Tax Credits, may not even be realized,” said attorney Bobby Baker representing SACE, which has intervened in every VCM. “Only customers in the 2076 to 2080 time period will receive the fuel savings, which represents an enormous intergenerational subsidy benefitting customers 50 or 60 years down the road. Expert testimony confirmed that if a decision were made today, building new nuclear generation is uneconomic.”

SACE remains extremely concerned that decisions by the DOE and other federal agencies were made to put taxpayer money at risk in spite of all of this relevant information showing serious, ever-mounting problems facing the Vogtle project.

Additional information:

For additional background on the $8.3 billion in Vogtle loan guarantees, please view a report analyzing some of the loan guarantee documents SACE received from previous FOIA litigation here and the supplemental memo. Unlike DOE and OMB, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has made thousands of pages of documents received publicly available through an online library.

Georgia Power is 45.7% owner in the project (remaining utility partners are Oglethorpe Power (30%), MEAG (22.7%), and the City of Dalton (1.6%)). This means the original approximately $14.1 billion Vogtle project is now estimated to cost at least $16.5 billion, which does not include over $1.1 billion in possible litigation costs. Costs have increased by over $800 million just since the last review.

A Commission decision on whether to approve the $169 million in expenditures during the reporting period will be made by August 18, 2015. The public can submit comments by referencing “Docket 29849” either online via http://www.psc.state.ga.us/content.aspx?c=/commissioners/, by phone at (800) 282-5813 or by regular mail to: Georgia Public Service Commission, 244 Washington Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30334-9052.

June 26, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Cost of Georgia’s new nuclear plant erodes recent savings

Analyst: New savings erode as cost of nuclear plant grows WT,  RAY HENRY – Associated Press – Tuesday, June 23, 2015 ATLANTA (AP) – The rising cost of building a new nuclear plant in Georgia will swallow most of the $2.7 billion in newfound savings that Southern Co. has publicly touted, a state analyst said Tuesday.

Southern Co. and its partners are building two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, a project running more than three years behind schedule. Time is money. The longer it takes to build, the more Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power must pay in construction and finance charges.

Since state regulators approved the plant in 2009, power company executives said they secured $2.7 billion in newfound savings, making the project more financially attractive. For example, the utility benefited from cheaper-than-expected borrowing and inflation costs, received government loans and expects to get tax credits.

But the actual savings could be as small as $208 million after subtracting new costs related to the delays, according to financial analyst Philip Hayet, who monitors project finances for the state Public Service Commission. By comparison, Georgia Power now expects to spend $7.5 billion on its share of construction expenses.

“It’s now virtually negligible,” Hayet said, describing the value of the savings identified by the utility. The first of the reactors is supposed to be complete in 2019, with the second following a year later. State monitors have cautioned that construction schedules could see more delays, further decreasing savings. Ultimately, Georgia Power customers will pay for the company’s share of building costs unless the elected members of the PSC intervene.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/23/analyst-slim-savings-as-cost-of-georgia-nuclear-pl/#ixzz3e6jsP41y

June 26, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

News coverage of Fukushima disaster minimized health risks to general population

Date: March 11, 2015

Source: American University

Summary: A new analysis finds that U.S. news media coverage of the Fukushima disaster largely minimized health risks to the general population. Researchers analyzed more than 2,000 news articles from four major U.S. outlets.

Four years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the disaster no longer dominates U.S. news headlines, though the disabled plant continues to pour three tons of radioactive water into the ocean each day. Homes, schools and businesses in the Japanese prefecture are uninhabitable, and will likely be so forever. Yet the U.S. media has dropped the story while public risks remain.

A new analysis by American University sociology professor Celine Marie Pascale finds that U.S. news media coverage of the disaster largely minimized health risks to the general population. Pascale analyzed more than 2,000 news articles from four major U.S. outlets following the disaster’s occurrence March 11, 2011 through the second anniversary on March 11, 2013. Only 6 percent of the coverage — 129 articles — focused on health risks to the public in Japan or elsewhere. Human risks were framed, instead, in terms of workers in the disabled nuclear plant.

Disproportionate access

“It’s shocking to see how few articles discussed risk to the general population, and when they did, they typically characterized risk as low,” said Pascale, who studies the social construction of risk and meanings of risk in the 21st century. “We see articles in prestigious news outlets claiming that radioactivity from cosmic rays and rocks is more dangerous than the radiation emanating from the collapsing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.”

Pascale studied news articles, editorials, and letters from two newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and two nationally prominent online news sites, Politico and The Huffington Post. These four media outlets are not only among the most prominent in the United States, they are also among the most cited by television news and talk shows, by other newspapers and blogs and are often taken up in social media, Pascale said. In this sense, she added, understanding how risk is constructed in media gives insight into how national concerns and conversations get framed.

Pascale’s analysis identified three primary ways in which the news outlets minimized the risk posed by radioactive contamination to the general population. Articles made comparisons to mundane, low-level forms of radiation;defined the risks as unknowable, given the lack of long-term studies; and largely excluded concerns expressed by experts and residents who challenged the dominant narrative.

The research shows that corporations and government agencies had disproportionate access to framing the event in the media, Pascale says. Even years after the disaster, government and corporate spokespersons constituted the majority of voices published. News accounts about local impact — for example, parents organizing to protect their children from radiation in school lunches — were also scarce.

Globalization of risk

Pascale says her findings show the need for the public to be critical consumers of news; expert knowledge can be used to create misinformation and uncertainty — especially in the information vacuums that arise during disasters.

“The mainstream media — in print and online — did little to report on health risks to the general population or to challenge the narratives of public officials and their experts,” Pascale said. “Discourses of the risks surrounding disasters are political struggles to control the presence and meaning of events and their consequences. How knowledge about disasters is reported can have more to do with relations of power than it does with the material consequences to people’s lives.”

While it is clear that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown was a consequence of an earthquake and tsunami, like all disasters, it was also the result of political, economic and social choices that created or exacerbated broad-scale risks. In the 21st century, there’s an increasing “globalization of risk,” Pascale argues. Major disasters have potentially large-scale and long-term consequences for people, environments, and economies.

“People’s understanding of disasters will continue to be constructed by media. How media members frame the presence of risk and the nature of disaster matters,” she said.

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150311124202.htm

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Japan, USA | | Leave a comment

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